The Baguette VS the bagel?


I’ve been in Paris for over two years now and I can honestly say I feel a little more settled. I get by in French, I buy a baguette most evenings, (and nibble the top off before I get to my apt), I even read up on the grèves (strikes) to know how what train is running so I can get to work. But perhaps one reason I feel «more settled» is because I’ve decided to stop comparing my new abode with my old abode, New York (my country for 14 years). There’s no point. It’s like comparing Andy Warhol to Renoir. Sure there are similarities, but the differences are greater. Two different histories, different energies, different values, different senses of humor, different everything. It’s not about the baguette vs the bagel. They’re both vibrant exciting cities in very different ways and just like anyone, you’ll never be able to change them.

Perhaps I have finally «clicked» with the City of Lights because, in the words of Old Blue Eyes, I did it my way …lentement et surement (slowly but surely). And I didn’t and still don’t ever read all those blogs for francophiles that rave about the city – «don’t hate me because I live in », etc etc. To be perfectly frank, for the first 18 months, I wasn’t so enthralled by the «beauty» of the place. In fact, I didn’t move here for its majestic grandeur, historical buildings or even the best sancerre…..which makes me think, eh «why did I move here again?

My first year and a half was not so enchanting. I was up to my eyes in paperwork and terribly frustrated that I could only get one thing done a day. Opening a bank account took 6 weeks, getting paid for a freelance project 3 months, and even ordering the internet, a nightmare! But through the challenges I learned a lot. Not only about Parisians and their slower paced life, but about patience. Not every city has the quick «24/7/365» approach. And if something is closed what can you do? I now love the fact that there’s a definite feel to my Sundays. No shops are open. Walk the streets in any arrondissement before 9 :00am and you feel you’re in a ghost town, love that!

Laissez-faire is very fair!

This « slower » way of living, has many benefits. Ironically enough the work-to-live concept makes for a richer life. For example, working fulltime (freelance is too complicated for new comers like me. Maybe in another 10 years!) in a rather big ad agency, I get 5 paid weeks of vacation a year, 1 day off a month, 5 holiday days, and even a day off to move. That’s not all. A typical day really starts at 10.30am, lunch in the canteen (full catered €3 «très bon») from 12 – 2pm and if the clients aren’t screaming for something, take a stroll down the Champs Elysée for a coffee. On top of all that, August is so quiet here, work is a doddle.

What I notice here is that the people do live it up. Or rather live more. There are no «staycations». Parisians take advantages of all their time off by getting out of their over-polluted city and relish in
their countryside, mountains, or golden coasts. Then when they come back in September they’re in the mood for city life, even if they look really depressed. But that’s another issue for another article.

Even meeting for «un verre » a drink is different here. You’re unaware of what time you can give someone and at what time you have to go. Conversations are more relaxed and deeper. No wonder they love philosophy so much. They make time to discuss it! Even businesses are not so interested in ‘making’ business. Take the cafés, whether you’re having an espresso or a big steak poivre, your table is your table. Just be prepared never to see the garà§on when you want the bill. And always let him finish his Marlboro Light before you ask for anything.

What I realize now is that at this stage of my life, running around trying to squeeze in so many things into one day is not as important to me. Or possible. I have come to like the fact of walking at a slighly slower pace, really talking to people, and being able to have a life with a job in advertising. Because with 5 weeks off a year, I’m fortunate enough to be able to hop on a plane to JFK whenever I please.

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